Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!!

I know some people are probably tired of hearing about the Trayvon Martin murder, but IMHO this case is every bit as important as the Supreme Court hearing arguments about the health care bill.

We live in a country in which suspicion still falls on African Americans even when they are just walking on the sidewalk or driving down the street. We live in a country in which the police can beat and kill and rape and and get away with it. We live in the land of “the new Jim Crow” in which “the mass incarceration of African American men”  is the latest state weapon in our nation’s long and bloody history of vicious racial violence.

How far have we really come when a young boy can be shot in cold blood and the shooter isn’t arrested or even tested for drugs and alcohol?

Over the weekend, the second stage of the Trayvon Martin media circus kicked into gear. That’s the part where various interested parties use the media to defend George Zimmerman–the man who thought a skinny 140-pound 17-year old boy walking home from the store looked “up to no good” and “like he’s on drugs,” and so chose to stalk and then kill the boy in cold blood. The Zimmerman rehabilitation campaign has consisted mostly of smearing the unarmed teenager who can no longer defend himself because he’s dead.

For the past three days, there has been a deliberate campaign to paint Trayvon Martin as a terrifying aggressor who deserved to die and George Zimmerman as a victim who was in terror of Martin and was forced to shoot him at point-blank range. Minx summarized much of the smear campaign in her evening reads last night. But here are a couple of things she didn’t mention:

Mail Online: Anonymous witness claims Martin attacked Zimmerman before the fatal shooting

The witness told FOX 35 in Orlando that he saw evidence of a fight between Martin and Zimmerman, which could lend credence to the gunman’s claim that he was acting in self-defence.
‘The guy on the bottom who had a red sweater on was yelling to me: “Help, help… and I told him to stop and I was calling 911,’ he said.

Zimmerman was wearing a red sweater; Martin was in a grey hoodie.
He added: ‘When I got upstairs and looked down, the guy who was on top beating up the

Really? And did this witness call 911? If so, we haven’t heard the tape of it yet.  Furthermore, this “new witness” isn’t even new. These same quotes were reported by Fox Orlando on February 27. But never mind, the quotes are helpful to Zimmerman, so they’re being reported as “new.”

An attorney, Craig Sonner, who says he is “advising” Zimmerman, but doesn’t yet “represent” him, has been making the rounds of the TV talk shows along with Joe Oliver, a former (maybe present?) TV news reporter, who says he is a close friend of Zimmerman’s and has known him for six years (actually Oliver’s wife is a friend of Zimmerman’s mother-in-law; it’s not clear how well Oliver knew Zimmerman before the shooting).

Sonner has been telling anyone who will listen that Trayvon broke George’s nose and cut open the back of his head, but yesterday we learned that Trayvon supposedly sucker-punched George in the nose, knocked him to the ground and then bashed his head against the sidewalk repeatedly. None of this was in the official police report.

Oliver says that George “couldn’t stop crying” for days after the shooting and he is now being treated for PTSD. Oliver says that George is very remorseful. He doesn’t say why George hasn’t contacted Trayvon’s parents to tell them he’s sorry about killing their son. In fact, Oliver even claims that if George hadn’t shot Trayvon, Trayvon would have killed George. Even though Trayvon was armed only with Skittles and iced tea.

Oh, and BTW, Oliver is an African American man. Therefore his close friend George Zimmerman could not possibly have been responding to racial stereotypes on the night of the shooting. AND, Oliver thinks calling someone a “fucking coon” is something to be proud of. And you don’t buy that, maybe Zimmerman was saying “fucking goons,” which is a “term of endearment” according to Oliver’s daughter.

All I can say is, I need to see pictures of Zimmerman’s injuries. I also need to have someone explain to me why Trayvon didn’t have a right to “stand his ground” and defend himself against an imposing 250-pound stranger who was stalking him with a gun.

Yesterday, the Zimmerman defense/smear campaign really doubled down, as the Sanford Police leaked information designed to smear the dead boy. Not to be outdone, the Miami/Dade School Police leaked selected portions of Trayvon’s private school records. Nothing about Trayvon acting violently, but hey–that will probably come out today, right? And all these leaks, along with the Sonner-Oliver media tour, are designed to make us forget that Trayvon Martin is DEAD at the hands of George Zimmerman.

I think this is a pretty good summary of the Zimmerman defense:

My client George Zimmerman is a very vulnerable individual weighing only 250 pounds. Fragile and delicate like a petite, gamine ballet dancer. His assailant Trayvon Martin was over 100 pounds lighter — making him much more agile and dangerous. Furthermore Trayvon Martin was armed with a bag of Skittles AND an iced tea. These are lethal weapons. It is no wonder that my client felt so threatened. And quite understandably felt that his life was in danger.

Read the rest  of the “Monty Python twinkie defense” at Huffpo.

There were two witnesses who did some media appearances in support of Trayvon Martin–Mary Cutcher and Selma Lamilla, but their efforts were mostly drowned out by the Zimmerman defense/smear campaign.

Cutcher and her roommate, Selma Lamilla, say they went outside when they heard the gunshot and saw Zimmerman standing over Martin.

“We both saw him straddling the body, basically, a foot on both sides of Trayvon’s body and his hands pressed on his back,” Cutcher said.

Cutcher says Zimmerman told her and her roommate to call the police.

“Zimmerman never turned him over or tried to help him or CPR or anything,” Cutcher said.

Lamilla said that after the shot was fired Zimmerman appeared to be pacing.

“He started walking back and forth like three times with his hand on the head and kind of, he was walking like kind of confused,” she said.

Lamilla said he was touching his head like “he was in shock.”

Police who responded to the scene noted that Zimmerman had injuries to his face and head.

When Lamilla was able to see who had been shot, she was stunned.

“And for me was a shock to see, ‘Oh my God, that it’s a kid. So skinny, no more than 20- years- old. So skinny, like baby faced,” Lamilla said.

Cutcher also told various media outlets that she had a really hard time getting the Sanford Police to listen to her story or even return her phone calls.

I’ve got a few more headlines to share. The first one is somewhat related to the Martin case. Another black teenager has been shot and killed by civilian neighborhood security guards, this time in Georgia. The two men, Curtis Scott and Gary Jackson have been arrested, but only for impersonating police officers so far.

Scott and Jackson, security guards for the apartment complex, were checking out a suspicious vehicle and had detained four women. They told the women they were police officers….the investigation shows that’s when the guards heard gunshots from a nearby residence. Around the same time, Ervin Jefferson, 18, pulled up to the scene.

The guards told police Jefferson approached them “aggressively and possibly even threatened to kill them.” ….that’s when Scott fired his gun at Jefferson, striking him once. The guard called 911.

Jefferson’s mother says she then saw the security guards hit her son with their car and drive over him. Police claim that Jefferson crawled under the car. Jefferson was declared dead at the hospital.

Ben Bernanke signaled yesterday that interest rates will remain low, because of the need to stimulate more job growth. Of course he means interest rates for the banksters, not regular people’s credit card or student loan rates. On the strength of that news, Wall Street surged.

Wall Street’s addiction to free money is on full display today.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up more than 100 points at lunchtime on the East Coast, while the Nasdaq was up more than one percent and the S&P 500 was up nearly one percent.

The primary reason? Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke made some notably downbeat comments about the economy today, seeming to put the kibosh on market expectations that the Fed could raise interest rates sooner rather than later.

Bernanke’s dedication to low rates also means the Fed is still capable of launching its third round of quantitative easing — buying up every bond that’s not nailed down in an effort to pump more cash into the economy. Pimco chief Bill Gross tweeted today that he thinks the Fed will hint at more QE, or “QE3,” in April. Of course, Gross stands to gain by cheerleading investors into thinking the Fed will buy more bonds, because Pimco has been buying bonds in a heavy bet on QE3, Reuters notes.

No word on when anyone in DC will do anything for us “small people.”

France has charged Dominique Strauss-Kahn in connection with a prostitution ring.

Former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was charged in France on Monday with “aggravated pimping” for his alleged participation in a prostitution ring, prosecutors said.

He is not allowed to have contact with other people involved in the investigation, nor is he permitted to talk to the media about the case. Strauss-Kahn was released under a 100,000-euro bail, according to prosecutors.

Rick Santorum kind of lost it yesterday: Rick Santorum’s nice-guy persona is turning a bit testy lately

For a while, it had seemed that Rick Santorum’s crabby days were behind him. Gone were the sarcastic potshots at reporters and peevish outbursts aimed at his political opponents. He had transformed into the Mr. Rogers of the presidential race: good-natured, self-deprecating and downright likable.

But that nice-guy image has gone down the drain lately, with a series of provocative remarks and testy exchanges that have coincided with his slipping presidential fortunes. He may have hit a low point Sunday, when he uttered an expletive in response to a question from a New York Times reporter.

Asked what he meant when he said in a speech that rival Mitt Romney was the “worst Republican in the country” to go up against President Obama, Santorum lashed back at reporter Jeff Zeleny in an exchange that was captured by CBS.

“Stop lying!” he responded. “I said he was the worst Republican to run on the issue of Obamacare. And that’s what I was talking about!” In case there was any doubt that he meant it, he suggested that if he saw such a statement in print, it would amount to “bull—-.”

Finally, I got a kick out of this story in The Independent: Hippies head for Noah’s Ark: Queue here for rescue aboard alien spaceship

A rapidly increasing stream of New Age believers – or esoterics, as locals call them – have descended in their camper van-loads on the usually picturesque and tranquil Pyrenean village of Bugarach. They believe that when apocalypse strikes on 21 December this year, the aliens waiting in their spacecraft inside Pic de Bugarach will save all the humans near by and beam them off to the next age.

As the cataclysmic date – which, according to eschatological beliefs and predicted astrological alignments, concludes a 5,125-year cycle in the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar – nears, the goings-on around the peak have become more bizarre and ritualistic.

For decades, there has been a belief that Pic de Bugarach, which, at 1,230 metres, is the highest in the Corbières mountain range, possesses an eery power. Often called the “upside-down mountain” – geologists think that it exploded after its formation and the top landed the wrong way up – it is thought to have inspired Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth and Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Since the 1960s, it has attracted New Agers, who insist that it emits special magnetic waves.

Further, rumours persist that the country’s late president François Mitterrand was transported by helicopter on to the peak, while the Nazis, and, later, Israel’s Mossad, performed mysterious digs there. Now the nearby village is awash with New Agers, who have boosted the local economy, though their naked group climbs up to the peak have raised concerns as well as eyebrows. Among other oddities, some hikers have been spotted scaling the mountain carrying a ball with a golden ring, strung together by a single thread.

Soooooo…. what are you reading and blogging about today?


Saturday Reads: What a glorious time to be free…spandex jackets for everyone!

Good Saturday morning, knowing that I had to write this post today, my anxiety level has grown.  This will be nowhere near as good as Wonk, so…that said, here we go.

You’ve been unemployed for longer than 4 months? Don’t even bother applying for that job…Yes, I am starting off with some attitude for this morning reads.  According to this post from Rachel Maddow’s blog, those of us who have been out of work for the last few years are screwed when it comes to finding that job.  Maddow Blog – Persistently job-searching, persistently jobless

A screenshot from an actual current job posting.

On last night’s show, Rachel made the point that the recent high rate of unemployment has a lot to do with the unemployed staying unemployed for longer. In other words, “high employment is due to persistent unemployment.”

The reason? There are likely many, but one noteworthy problem takes place in a very specific setting – the hiring process between employer and potential employees. Catherine Rampell of The New York Times recently reported on a study of job postings on numerous employment websites, and discovered “hundreds that said employers would consider (or at least ‘strongly prefer’) only people currently employed or just recently laid off.”

This blatantly excludes anyone who belongs in the “Continuing Joblessness” category below.

Jared Bernstein

The stigma attached to being unemployed has increasingly become more of a factor in the hiring process, although the legality of discriminating against employment status remains in question. Rampell writes:

Legal experts say that the practice probably does not violate discrimination laws because unemployment is not a protected status, like age or race. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently held a hearing, though, on whether discriminating against the jobless might be illegal because it disproportionately hurts older people and blacks.

Given that the average duration of unemployment today is nine months — a record high — limiting a search to the “recently employed,” much less the currently employed, disqualifies millions.

The rationale also doesn’t make much sense. As Rampell notes, “…people who have been out of work for two years or longer are people who were laid off during the recession. That means many of them were workers whose jobs were eliminated simply because their businesses were doing badly, not because they were personally incompetent.” Basically, questioning a person’s qualifications because they’re out of a job could cause employers to miss a potentially great hire.

The article goes on to say in March,  New Jersey became the first state to make it illegal to post job adverts which state the applicant must be employed.  In Washington, there is proposed legislation in the works that addresses this issue.

…in the House, the Fair Employment Act of 2011 would amend the Civil Rights Act to prohibit employers from refusing job applicants solely on the basis of unemployment.

Such a law would probably help dispel the use of job postings like this, but unfortunately, like any other anti-discrimination law, the validity of any cases brought forth would likely be difficult to prove. Employers would have to realize that the practice is inefficient for them in order to cause any considerable change.

This next article comes from HNN, History News Network, and brings comparisons of Hoover and Obama up to a different level, that being the “smarts” level…Obama and Hoover: Two “Smart” (Stupid) Presidents | History News Network by Jonathan Bean

For the past year, I have been researching how the housing bubble of the 1920s contributed to the Great Depression when the bubble burst. My study involves reading many articles and speeches by Herbert Hoover, first as Commerce Secretary (1921-1928) then as president (1929-1933). As the nation endures the Obama presidency, I see much in common between the two men, both seen as “smart” by their supporters.

We forget that Hoover had a “titanic intellect,” a stellar career as a mining engineer, translated medieval manuscripts into English, and wrote the textbook Principles of Mining. He helped orchestrate relief aid to save millions from hunger and starvation across post-World War I Europe. During the 1920s, he was a “progressive” busybody telling businessmen in all fields how they could make their work more efficient. His Commerce Department held 2,500 trade association meetings. One of those associations—the American Construction Council—was headed by trade lobbyist Franklin Delano Roosevelt. No, I am not making this up! FDR thought Hoover’s “smart” approach to jawboning business was an improvement upon competitive capitalism.

Barack Obama can’t boast that kind of record (he achieved very little before becoming president) but he shares the same cast of mind as Hoover: In a recent Wall Street Journal article, “Is Obama Smart?,” Bret Stephens concludes that

a) Obama (like Hoover) thinks he is smarter than those who run businesses; but

b) “stupid is as stupid does.”

As their “smart” policies failed year after year, Hoover and Obama dug in and blamed the international environment (“economic headwinds”).

So, take a look at quotes from articles written about each man.  One discusses Hoover by interviewing people in 1928, and the second is from the 2008 WSJ article referred to up top.

Hoover 1928:

The Outlook reporter anonymously interviewed a prominent banker as to why business was opposed to Hoover, a “smart” candidate who mesmerized the the country with how he would engineer permanent prosperity.

Banker: My firm “has many textile manufacturers as clients . . . but nobody in the bank would presume to tell our customers how to make rayon.” Yet Hoover is “confident that he knows more about finance than financiers, more about industry than industrialists, and more about agriculture than agriculturists. He is so sure of his judgment in these fields that he wants to impress it on others. He is very seldom willing to take advice. Since he knows more than any advisers could, why should he?”

“[Hoover’s] cast of mind will handicap him . . . . Because of his confidence in his own wisdom he is suspicious of those who disagree with him.”

“We object, moreover, not only to his ignoring our advice. We object to his offering us his advice on matters that are none of his business.” [Banker notes how Hoover’s Commerce Department urged business to invest in certain industries or areas]. “It is not our function as bankers to tell our customers with whom they should do business.”

Now take a look at the similarities to this Wall Street Journal article…

Obama 2008:

“‘I think I’m a better speech writer than my speech writers,'” [Obama] reportedly told an aide in 2008. ‘I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m . . . a better political director than my political director.'”
Stephens writes: “How many times have we heard it said that Mr. Obama is the smartest president ever? Even when he’s criticized, his failures are usually chalked up to his supposed brilliance. Liberals say he’s too cerebral for the Beltway rough-and-tumble. . . .”
“Socrates taught that wisdom begins in the recognition of how little we know. Mr. Obama is perpetually intent on telling us how much he knows. Aristotle wrote that the type of intelligence most needed in politics is prudence, which in turn requires experience. Mr. Obama came to office with no experience.”

Much is made of the president’s rhetorical gifts. This is the sort of thing that can be credited only by people who think that a command of English syntax is a mark of great intellectual distinction. Can anyone recall a memorable phrase from one of Mr. Obama’s big speeches that didn’t amount to cliché?”

As many of you have seen, there has been a whole lotta buyers remorse of late…by those who put Obama in the White House.

We have now reached the point where many Americans, even those who voted for Obama, share the attitude of those disillusioned with Hoover: In 1931, they recalled how they felt just three years prior: Hoover seemed so wonderful! He promised to end poverty in our time! And he seemed so smart!

[…]

We all know how well Hoover did in practice. It’s starting to look like “deja vu all over again.”

Yes, you can say that again…again.

On to a discussion about some of those disillusioned Obama bots… This post by LisaB over at No Quarter brought the most recent “should have voted for Hillary” admission to my attention. Another Captain Obvious : NO QUARTER

Yet another columnist says he “should have voted for Hillary.” Meh. You think? I used to find this sort of public re-thinking a little satisfying, but quite frankly now it just makes me mad.

Just around the same time I read that No Quarter post, Boston Boomer sent me a link to the original Bill McClellan article below.

I should have picked Hillary over Obama

In it, McClellan writes that the realization came as he was splashing around in Lake Michigan, lucky for us it was not while he was on the toilet experiencing a life altering bowel movement.

He then goes on to point out Obama’s god-like projection which blinded him to voting for Hillary, who he says was just more of Bill and he didn’t want it anyway.

McClellan discusses some of the many Obama fuck-ups and comes to this conclusion.

The blame, I think, lies with Obama. He is not strong enough to be an effective president.

Really? No shit!

(Oh yeah, sorry for the “language” but they tend to slip out when I’m pissed off.)

The examples of Obama’s weakness continues, then McClellan finishes the article with this nugget… and I will go back to the No Quarter article, which I think puts this “Should Have” admission in its proper place.

McClellan wonders why Obama seems passive, not aggressive enough, etc, (insert your own weakened descriptors here). And he comes up with a familiar answer: the dude is smart but he wasn’t ready.

Why has Obama not lived up to the promise? He is clearly intelligent. For some reason, though, he was not ready for the rough and tumble of national politics.

McClellan goes on to say that Obama, having been protected and bumped along in elite institutions full of well-meaning white people (as opposed to. . . ), had not encountered any real opposition, personal or circumstantial before becoming President.

Dude – what was there about a non-writing law review editor, present-voting first-term-senator, sub-committee-skipping chair, no-political-history political messiah, life-long-friend dropper, and Chicago-machine operator that failed to register with you? Had you considered the politician on his merits, you COULD NOT HAVE FAILED to realize he was Not Ready.

Hillary had been tested. Eight years in the meat grinder. She’d have been a better president.

Seriously? That’s what you’re going with? And it took you how long to tip to this bit-o-wisdom? I’m not very happy you realized your error, not thrilled that you see the difference, just disgusted that another Captain Obvious has come out with his supersuit on.

More for you after the jump…

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